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Vol. 68, No. 7
ISSN: 1488-2159
July / August 2002


Oral and Pharyngeal Cancer: Practices and Opinions of Dentists in British Columbia and Nova Scotia


• Joanne B. Clovis, PhD •
• Alice M. Horowitz, PhD •
• Dale H. Poel, PhD •

A b s t r a c t

Oral and pharyngeal cancers are associated with high mortality rates, a situation usually attributed to late-stage diagnosis. Dentists in British Columbia and Nova Scotia were surveyed regarding their practices and opinions related to oral and pharyngeal cancer. In February 1998 a pretested, 41-item survey was mailed to a random sample of dentists in British Columbia (n = 817) and the population of dentists in Nova Scotia (N = 423). A reminder postcard and one additional mailing were sent to nonrespondents. Of the 670 dentists supplying usable responses (response rate 55.2%), only 56.7% agreed that their knowledge of the subject was current. Of 8 health history items, dentists assessed 5 on average, with most (88.0%) asking about the patients' current use of tobacco. A total of 72.7% of the responding dentists performed an oral cancer examination for all edentulous patients at every appointment, but 10.9% never did so. Similarly, 70.7% of the dentists always provided an oral cancer examination at the initial appointment for patients 40 years of age and older, but 9.8% never did so. Undergraduate training related to oral cancer examination was reported as good by only 52.2% of the dentists. About three-quarters of all dentists (77.0%) were interested in taking continuing education courses on this subject. Differences between the 2 provinces were not statistically significant (p > 0.01). Dentists in British Columbia and Nova Scotia could benefit from undergraduate and continuing education courses to increase their knowledge of health history assessment, examination for oral and pharyngeal cancers, and risk reduction strategies, such as counselling about tobacco cessation.


MeSH Key Words: Canada; dentist's practice patterns; mouth neoplasms
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